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If you are working, according to SSA’s definition of work, you are not eligible for disability benefits. However, work has a very specific definition under SSA’s rules. Work is defined by the SSA as “substantial gainful activity.”(SGA). A person who is earning more than a certain monthly amount (net of impairment- related workexpenses) is ordinarily considered to be engaging in SGA. Under SSA’s disability provisions, a person who is engaging in SGA is not eligible for payment of disability benefits.


SGA is defines work as “doing significant physical or mental activities . . . for pay or profit. . . .” “Significant activities” are useful in the accomplishment of a job and have economic value. Work may be substantial even if it is performed on a part-time basis, or even if the individual does less, is paid less, or has less responsibility than in previous work. Work activity by an employee is gainful if it is the kind of work usually done for pay, whether in-cash or in-kind. Activities such as self-care, household tasks, unpaid training, hobbies, therapy, school attendance, clubs, social programs, are not generally considered to be SGA.


Below, please find a chart that defines the monthly amount of money you can earn in any given year before the SGA definition applies. As you can see, there is a difference between those who are blind and those who are not blind. Also, the SGA amount is your gross earnings per month. This means before taxes are taken out.

Monthly substantial gainful activity amounts by disability type
Year Blind Not blind
1976 $230 $230
1977 240 240
1978 334 260
1979 375 280
1980 417 300
1981 459 300
1982 500 300
1983 550 300
1984 580 300
1985 610 300
1986 650 300
1987 680 300
1988 700 300
1989 740 300
1990 780 500
1991 810 500
1992 850 500
1993 880 500
1994 930 500
1995 $940 $500
1996 960 500
1997 1,000 500
1998 1,050 500
1999 1,110 700
2000 1,170 700
2001 1,240 740
2002 1,300 780
2003 1,330 800
2004 1,350 810
2005 1,380 830
2006 1,450 860
2007 1,500 900
2008 1,570 940
2009 1,640 980
2010 1,640 1,000
2011 1,640 1,000
2012 1,690 1,010
2013 1,740 1,040
2014 1,800 1,070
2015 $1,820 $1,090
2016 1,820 1,130
2017 1,950 1,170
2018 1,970 1,180
2019 2,040 1,220
2020 2,110 1,260

Many people think they can work and get disability benefits. This is simply not true. The SSA has a specific amount of money that you can earn on a monthly basis and if you earn over that amount, you are working SGA. Therefore, you cannot receive disability benefits. People who are working and also claiming a disability check are committing fraud.


If you try to work and you earn under the SGA amount or your work doesn’t last more than a few months, you can still apply for disability benefits. Some people try to work despite their severe disability. Working a few hours a week should not hurt your chances in receiving benefits. Most people with a mental or physical disability find that they cannot work on a full-time or even a part-time basis. That is why they are applying for disability benefits. Disability benefits replace monthly income.

At our Cannon Disability Law office, we help our clients apply for benefits and we appeal SSA’s denials. If you need to apply for disability benefits, you can do so online at It doesn’t matter where you live in the country, the above table applies to you. If you live in Utah, Nevada, or California, the same amount of money in the above table defines SGA. This is true even if the cost of living is higher in California than Nevada.

If you have questions about work and disability benefits, contact our office. We will answer your questions for free. If you need disability benefits, SSD or SSI, then contact Cannon Disability Law. We will help you apply for benefits or appeal a denial for benefits from the SSA. You can contact us by phone or by email. We can often answer your questions about working and disability benefits over the phone. Give us a call today and let us be part of your disability team.


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